The Timberwolves have never gotten lucky in the NBA lottery. They have never picked above the slot in which they were predicted to land.
Tuesday night, the odds had them picking fifth in the 2016 draft, and they wound up with the fifth pick.
This is the rare time in Wolves history when they didn’t desperately need a stroke of luck. They might have benefited long-term from picking above the fifth spot, but they finally find themselves in a position where they have reason to trust their decisionmaker and their young talent. For once, the Timberwolves did not need a miracle.
They could trade the pick for a veteran. They could draft yet another precocious talent and hope to speed his development.
What’s most intriguing about this pick is that they likely will have a chance to take the most polished player in the draft at a position of need.
Many national mock drafts have the Wolves taking Kentucky freshman Jamal Murray at No. 5. This isn’t a good time to tell the Wolves’ fan base that taking a youngster from Kentucky might be a bad idea, not after Karl-Anthony Towns won the Rookie of the Year award.
Murray can shoot and create his own shot. He would fit nicely into the Wolves’ lineup. He is 19, and he could grow with the Wolves’ other youngsters.
But there is a better option likely to be available at No. 5, a player who shot an even higher percentage from the field, the three-point line and the free-throw line than Murray.
Unless the Wolves are blown away by a trade offer for the fifth pick, they should take Oklahoma senior Buddy Hield.
He should be the best available combination of talent, maturity and polish available where the Wolves are selecting.
He’s 22. He carried his team this season. That Towns is remarkably mature at the age of 20 is a stroke of luck for the Wolves; Hield’s maturity has been earned with four seasons of big-time college basketball.
Hield can shoot from NBA three-point range, and he is strong enough to have a chance to immediately defend in the league.
If the Wolves draft Hield, they won’t be predicting that he can develop physically over the next few years. They won’t, as they have done yearly with Ricky Rubio, hope he will spend the summer learning to shoot efficiently. They will be getting the closest thing to a finished product that college basketball offers these days.
With Karl-Anthony Towns, Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins in place, the Wolves don’t need to start from scratch with another project. Glen Taylor hired Tom Thibodeau so he can win now and for the next five years.
With Hield and presumably a quality free agent added to this roster, Thibodeau should be able to win 40 or more games and compete for the Wolves’ first playoff spot since before Kevin Garnett could play a grandfather in a commercial.
Imagine this rotation on Opening Night: Rubio, Zach LaVine, Hield, Wiggins, Joakim Noah (or another veteran power forward), Towns, Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad.
Thibodeau could use a small lineup of Rubio, LaVine, Hield, Wiggins and Towns. That would be the most athletic fivesome ever to play at one time for the Wolves.
On Monday, Towns wore purple accents with his suit as he received the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award. He said he was honoring Prince.
On Tuesday in New York, Towns again wore a classy suit, and this time it was adorned by the wedding ring of Flip Saunders, the man who chose him with the first pick in last year’s draft.
Flip cried when the Wolves were awarded that first pick last year. He knew that pick would set up the Wolves to win big.
There was no reason for tears Tuesday night. For once, the Wolves didn’t need a miracle. All they need is to add another good player or two, and for once they are in a position to take the most polished player available.